Dreamwork’s martial-arts loving Panda is back in Kung Fu Panda 2. However, even with the Furious Five (Tigress, Crane, Viper, Monkey and Mantis) by his side, and myriads of huge action sequences, Kung Fu Panda 2 fails to surpass its predecessor and comes up short.
Kung Fu Panda 2 reunites us with Po (Jack Black), that lovable martial arts fanatic Panda turned Dragon Warrior in the last movie. In this film, a new threat emerges in the form of Lord Shen—the peacock with a really evil disposition. He has crafted a weapon that would, as the trailer goes “put an end to Kung Fu”. This weapon, as seen also in trailers, would be gunpowder. Hence the Dragon Warrior and the Furious Five go on a quest to stop him at all cost.
Sounds formulaic? That’s because it is.
Although the premise is quite simple, Kung Fu Panda 2 also tries to complicate things by rooting us back to Po’s origin—yes folks, the Panda is not a freak offspring of his goosey father, Mr. Ping. (Surprise!) The joke worked on the first movie when Mr. Ping sets up for the whole “you’re adopted” line but instead goes on an tells Po his secret ingredient to his Secret Ingredient Soup. But in the 2nd film, this part of the story was pretty much the weak link that, unfortunately for Po, made Kung Fu Panda 2 not so awesome as it should have been.
In-Depth Review (Semi-Spoilers Ahead)
The problem that Kung Fu Panda 2 faced is the same with any sequel—how do we make a better film from the first one that was just, purely, awesome? The answer is: it’s hard! And Kung Fu Panda 2 is no exception.
Upon the start of the film, right after the animated prologue about Lord Shen (Gary Oldman) and his massacre of a Panda Town, we see Po and the Furious Five in big action sequences—the types that would take your breath away for a second and would bore you for the remaining 2 minutes. It’s not so much that the animation was boring (on the contrary, the animation and rendering were great); it’s just that there’s pretty much no tension from the hero versus the rest of the minor enemies. You already know these guys will triumph over 2 or 3 dozen extras.
Add to the fact that Po now knows Kung Fu (like he really works well with the Furious Five) that there’s very little room to give the audience that element of surprise.
The villain, Lord Shen, is a bit problematic for me as well. Unlike the villain in the first movie, Tai Lung (Ian Mcshane), Lord Shen is a sweet-heart when compared to that Demon of a Snow Leopard. Shen’s dark villainy stems from the fact that he was brought up in Royalty and that he basically is a brat and craves mommy and daddy’s attention. Oh and that wanted to use the fireworks that his people invented and made them into weapons to gain more power in China! Mwahahahaah (insert thunder and lightning)
The thing is Lord Shen is as flat as those paper puppets used in the opening prologue. He’s misunderstood, exiled, seeking revenge and just being plain bad!
Oh and I forgot to tell you guys why Lord Shen murdered a town of innocent cudwy wubwy Pandas. A prophecy was foretold by a Soothsayer (Michelle Yeoh) that Lord Shen will be defeated by “a being of black and white”. Now, I wonder who could that be? Hmmm? Hence making Lord Shen furious (and scared) and massacred them Pandas. And can you guess where Po came from now? See…it doesn’t really take that much guesswork to figure things out in Kung Fu Panda 2.
But again, don’t get me wrong, there are some fun moments in Kung Fu Panda 2. Some of the jokes are a bit tiring but there are surprisingly fresh ones (there is one towards the end of the movie that just killed me). However, having a luke-warm story with characters not really evolving killed the momentum that the first movie had. Even the moral lesson that they were trying to push was too off. Yes I get it, ‘Inner Peace’ but didn’t Po get that during the first movie already? The “there is no secret ingredient” had more bearing.
Overall, Kung Fu Panda 2 is an okay film. It’s entertaining but a pretty much far cry from the awesomeness it once was.
Unbox Rating: 3/5